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Arson Suspected In Black Fraternity House Fire

August 4, 1988 GMT

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) _ A fire early Thursday destroyed what would have been the first black fraternity house on the University of Mississippi’s Fraternity Row, and authorities suspect arson, officials said.

No one was occupying the two-story house, school officials said. Members of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity were to move into the house later this month.

Fire Chief Terry McDonald said flammable fluids were found in a closet where the early morning fire apparently started. He said the material had been sent to the state crime laboratory for examination.

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″All of us at the University of Mississippi are saddened by this tragedy,″ university Chancellor Gerald Turner said in a statement. ″If arson is proven to be the cause, we are making it absolutely clear that such reprehensible acts will not be tolerated on our campus.″

Turner said the university would work to find alternative housing for the 20-member fraternity.

Fraternity adviser Thomas Wallace does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

In 1962, riots broke out on the University of Mississippi campus when James Meredith became the first black student to register at the all-white school.

University spokesman Ed Meek said the state College Board recently approved leasing the house formerly occupied by Sigma Pi to the black fraternity. He said the lease hadn’t been signed yet, but Phi Beta Sigma members had been allowed access to the house during the past couple of days to make preparations to move in.

He said the 50-year-old house had been vacant for some time.

Meek said he didn’t know if there were any other vacant houses on Fraternity Row that could be offered to the fraternity. But he said school officials would do their best to find other accommodations for the group before students start arriving Aug. 20.